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Teeples: BYU's color change in 1999 was a total home run

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 6:22 a.m. MDT

BYU's #15 Max Hall is hugged by teammate #37 Vic So'oto after BYU defeated Oregon State in the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas 44-20.  Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009. Photo by Scott G Winterton Deseret News. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News) BYU's #15 Max Hall is hugged by teammate #37 Vic So'oto after BYU defeated Oregon State in the Maaco Bowl in Las Vegas 44-20. Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2009. Photo by Scott G Winterton Deseret News. (Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

This article is part two of two in a series on BYU's decision to change its colors in the early 2000's from royal blue to navy blue. In part one, Ryan Teeples examines the history behind BYU's decision and how BYU arrived at where it is today in terms of branding and marketing. In this article, Ryan Teeples takes a closer look at the impact the color change has had on BYU's culture and how the branding change could affect the future of BYU athletics.

The Impact and the future

Say what you want about the color change, from a business standpoint, it’s been a home run. In 2003, even before the change in logo and uniform design, BYU was selling the navy gear at an unprecedented clip.

Brett Eden, BYU licensing and trademark specialist in 2004, said that the school sold more paraphernalia in 2003 than any other year in school history. That put the Cougars at No. 50 nationally in gear sales, according to the Collegiate Licensing Company. And the Cougars have remained near that spot since.

Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae (in gray) sends in a play during BYU's annual spring scrimmage at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, April 9, 2005. An assistant in the foreground is sporting BYU's apparel from 1999-2004. In 2005, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall brought back BYU's classic uniforms but kept the university's official "Cougar Blue" color. (Jason Olson, Deseret News) Offensive Coordinator Robert Anae (in gray) sends in a play during BYU's annual spring scrimmage at Lavell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Saturday, April 9, 2005. An assistant in the foreground is sporting BYU's apparel from 1999-2004. In 2005, BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall brought back BYU's classic uniforms but kept the university's official "Cougar Blue" color. (Jason Olson, Deseret News)

And BYU football was losing terribly back in 2003.

A quick glance around Lavell Edwards Stadium today will confirm the fact that fans are not just getting the gear, but actually sporting it. Navy, as a color, is just more fan-friendly. You can wear it out to dinner just as easily as to the game. As Hale said, fans just don’t wear royal blue. But they wear Navy.

You can argue that’s a fan problem. Alabama gets people to wear hideous crimson gear year-round. And that’s certainly true. But the fact remains that, despite my opinion on BYU’s solution — or your opinion — it has worked.

And in the end, money will always beat out tradition. You can dislike it all you want, but it’s a fact of life you’d better get used to. The University of Utah left decades of opponent and conference traditions behind for way more money in the Pac-12. No sane person would argue the Utes shouldn’t have.

Other fans like to complain that navy was stolen from Utah State, and you can’t take a color from a rival. And Aggies themselves enjoy pointing out the same. But that point is moot if you simply consider the color was stolen from Penn State.

Despite the business and practical logic behind it, fans will always be divided. A request on Twitter got passionate responses from both sides, though the demographically skewed younger fans certainly lean toward navy on the whole.

@TrueBlueNoU says: “Always have been a fan of the traditional blue in the 1980's and 1990's, wish #BYU would go back to it soon.”

@KelJewkes is pragmatic, but holds soft spot for royal blue: “Royal blue is less common, a Y fan had to stand out to wear it. Navy blue suites the casual fan; blends in. #Royal”

@LJoyce11 jokes (accurately): “royal blue doesn't look good on anyone.”

@Laners14 goes allegorical: “Royal blue is sexy. It's like the team's lingerie. You can't see it all the time, but you get excited knowing it’s there.”

But @jaswinn sums up the prevailing thought: “I like the navy blue for the standard uniform. Royal blue should make an appearance once a year. Gear should be available too.”

It’s likely BYU fans will remain divided, with Team Royal Blue remaining the more passionate of the sides. But in the end, as long as the wins keep coming, fans will unite come game day and sport the correct gear.

After all, that navy wave in the stands sure looks better than the Skittles look.

Ryan Teeples (@SportsGuyUtah) is a respected marketing and technology expert, full-time sports fan and owner of Ryan Teeples Consulting Inc.

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